Nantucket, MA is a small island 30 miles south of Cape Cod. The name Nantucket is from an Algonquin word for faraway land or island. The island is primarily a summer vacation destination for many Americans. With the summer tourists comes a multitude of fine dining restaurants, there is a fine dining restaurant on every block of downtown Nantucket!
The National Pork Board decided to explore the island’s best restaurants and local seafood and clam chowder for the 4th annual Pork Crawl on October 2 – 3, 2013. After checking into the perfectly appointed White Elephant Village Inn, the 2013 Pork Crawl kicked off with a boat ride across Nantucket Harbor toward The Wauwinet, a historic hotel serving local Nantucket residents and thousands of tourists each year. The first taste of Nantucket was creamy clam and linguiça fritters, and uni toast with lardo and chives on the white sands of The Wauwinet Zen Deck, courtesy of Topper’s, the hotel’s award-winning 25-year-old restaurant.
Next up, Topper’s Executive Chef Kyle Zachary and Stephen Gerike, Director of Foodservice Marketing for the National Pork Board, walked attendees through “the original pork and seafood pairing” – chowder. Gerike discussed the types of pork traditionally used in the best chowders, including salt pork (also known as cured pork belly), bacon and fat back – salt-cured fat from the back, or loin, of the pig.
To wrap up the evening, the group headed back to the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill for a dessert tasting featuring pork at its sweetest – silky maple cheesecake topped with candied pork lardon and a bourbon glaze, chocolate truffles, and bacon challah pain perdu with vanilla Grand Manier crème anglaise. Paired with samples of local Cisco Brewers’ Nantucket ales and chocolate porters, dessert was simply perfect.
The ACK crawl set off on foot from the White Elephant Village Inn to the first stop: American Seasons. Chef Michael LaScola, a James Beard semi-finalist who has spent the last 21 years in the American Seasons kitchen, and his wife, co-owner and Sommelier Orla Murphy-LaScola, talked about his pork-based dishes. The crawl continued on to 9 different restaurants around the island.
At the end of a long flavor-filled day, the group had expanded their knowledge and palates – not only with new pork dish possibilities, but also of unique and flavorful pork pairings, from seafood and shellfish to cocktails. During the immersive experience of the island and its culinary scene, all in attendance learned how to think about inventive methods for combining pork with local staples, like clams, apples and more. From the full bellies and inspired eyes, it was evident that the Nantucket Pork Crawl was a delicious success.
Chef Michael LaScola has spent the last 21 years honing his skills in the American Seasons kitchen. From prep cook to chef/owner, LaScola developed a reputation for adding a playful twist to American favorites. His dedication to regional and seasonal produce – along with Sommelier (and wife) Orla Murphy-LaScola’s equally creative, all-American wine list – has made American Seasons one of the premier restaurants on Nantucket.
LaScola first started at American Seasons as a prep cook in 1992, two days after graduating high school. He returned to the kitchen every summer while studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, until graduated and became the restaurant’s sous chef in 1996. He and Murphy-LaScola purchased the renowned restaurant in 2004, and have spent the last decade crafting charming, distinctly American dishes.
Since taking over American Seasons, LaScola has headlined James Beard dinners in New York City and his food has garnered praise from Bon Appétit, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine and more. In June LaScola, his wife and chef/co-owner Tom Berry opened The Proprieters Bar & Table, featuring internationally inspired cuisine showcasing local ingredients. From global fare to classic Americana, LaScola’s dedication to serving delicious, delightful food has Nantucket cheering.
American Seasons has been a mainstay of Nantucket fine dining for almost a quarter-century. Located in the heart of the island’s historic downtown, the restaurant offers unique, inventive dishes and a one-of-a-kind wine list in a cozy, candlelit atmosphere. Chef/Owner Michael LaScola is renowned for his whimsical interpretations of American classics with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. When paired with Sommelier Orla Murphy-LaScola’s award-winning American wine list, the restaurant is an island can’t-miss. The American Seasons menu is full of playful dishes like Suckling Pig Confit with grilled Gulf shrimp and Pork Belly with crispy oyster. The welcoming, Americana-inspired atmosphere features game board tables, harvest murals and a patio full of hand-hammered copper tables. American Seasons has been featured by Travel Channel, The Boston Globe, The Improper Bostonian and Boston Magazine. As the restaurant celebrates its 25th season, fans across the island look forward to another 25 years filled with more delicious, creative American cuisine. http://www.americanseasons.com
Husband-and-wife chef team Seth and Angela Raynor graduated together from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT. After a brief stint in Chicago, they returned to Nantucket where they managed the kitchen and front-of-house at The Chanticleer before opening their own restaurant, Boarding House, in 1992. “We skipped a couple steps along the way. We went from being employees and sous chefs to owning our own restaurant. That’s a big leap,” Seth remarked. Following the success of their first restaurant, the Raynors opened The Pearl above Boarding House in 1998. A decade later, the couple began craving new horizons and expanded once again – Corazo´n del Mar opened in 2009 to rave reviews. For a taste of Latin America, Nantucketers look no further. The Latin kitchen highlights the Raynors’ playful, informal side, serving an upscale take on classic south-of-the-border cuisine featuring raw and ceviche bars, innovative tapas, entre´es and more. From the cozy papaya-orange downstairs dining area to the tequila bar upstairs, patrons can sit and enjoy Latin American-inspired dishes – like a Trio of Artisanal Jamo´n, Crispy Pork Carnitas and Al Pastor Lettuce Cups with guajillo chile-marinated pork and pineapple salsa. Corazo´n del Mar has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Boston Examiner and the Boston Herald. http://www.corazonnantucket.com/
Since opening little more than a year ago, Cru has become Nantucket’s premier waterfront oyster bar. Executive Chef and partner Erin Zircher has developed a menu that concentrates on simple, elegant New England classics made with ingredients from local waters. The stylish coastal atmosphere, surrounded by the ocean, nautical rope and driftwood de´cor, creates a relaxing environment in which to enjoy Zircher’s food – from the exceptional raw bar and fresh-caught fish to inventive dishes like Roasted Cape Cod Bay Oysters with wilted greens, chorizo butter and grilled bread, and the Softshell BLT made with Applewood-smoked bacon and crispy softshell crab. Zircher comes to Nantucket by way of California – she moved to the island for a summer job and never left. Her innovative menus are influenced by her classical French and Mediterranean sensibilities, and experience in top kitchens, including Lucques and AOC in West Hollywood, Everest in Chicago, and La Fleur de Sel and Ma Petite Folie in Brest, France. Prior to founding Cru, Zircher spent seven years creating farm-to-table menus at the renowned Boarding House on Nantucket. Zircher’s skills have been featured in Wine Spectator, Zagat, Fodor’s, Boston Common and Boston Magazine. http://www.crunantucket.com
Native to Cornwall, England, pasties are making a splash on the island thanks to the Nantucket Pasty Company, which opened in summer of 2012. The pasty, pronounced pass-tee, is a hand-pie traditionally filled with seasoned meat and vegetables – but owner Nathan Coe and Head Chef Joshua Smerdon are taking it to the next level. Focusing on local, seasonal ingredients, Smerdon crafts flaky, buttery personal pies that are perfect for any meal, including dessert. Coe, former creative director of the island’s N Magazine and an English transplant to Nantucket, was craving the flavors of home when he decided to bring the pasty overseas. He teamed with Smerdon, who holds a degree in baking and pastry arts from the Culinary Institute of America, to offer the grab-and-go eatery’s delicious pies. Patrons can pick up a classic Bacon, Egg and Cheese for breakfast and grab a Ham, Pineapple and Cheese pasty for lunch at the same time. “A solid ambassador for British cuisine,” Nantucket Pasty Company’s offerings have been covered in Forbes, Examiner.com, and the Nantucket Chronicle. http://nantucketpastyco.com/
Located on the second story of a historic Nantucket home, O`ran Mo´r is an intimate bistro and bar that serves beautifully prepared cuisine focused on simple, elegant flavors. Chef Chris Freeman and co-owner/wife Heather offer innovative seasonal menus that focus on fresh ingredients: native seafood, local produce and naturally raised meats from select farms. Refined dishes like Grilled Maine Family Farms Pork Chop paired with bourbon-smoked pork belly hash, and English Pea and Ham Hock Soup entice diners to relax and enjoy the warmth of the classic New England atmosphere. O`ran Mo´r is a Gaelic phrase that translates to Beautiful Song. The Freemans opened the bistro in 2006, after Chef Freeman spent nine seasons in charge of the kitchen at Topper’s at the Wauwinet. Prior to Topper’s, he was the executive chef at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, CT. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Freeman has cooked for the James Beard House and his cuisine has received critical acclaim from Zagat, Coastal Living and National Geographic Traveler. http://www.oranmorbistro.com/
Beloved by native Nantucketers and visitors alike, Black- Eyed Susan’s has been an island hotspot for over 20 years. Executive Chef Jeff Worster and co-owner Susan Handy have created an eclectic bistro-diner hybrid with a focus
on seasonal, local ingredients. With what’s often called “the best breakfast on the island,” and an invariable line for dinner service, Black-Eyed Susan’s quirky, ever-changing menus keep diners coming back.
The cozy restaurant features an open kitchen counter so diners can watch the chefs’ self-described “pyromaniacal” style. Worster and Chef Todd Edwards work together to deliver fresh spins on classic favorites, like Epazote Roast Pork – pulled pork on grilled focaccia topped with cinnamon mole – or Crispy Burmese Pork with pickled mustard greens. Black-Eyed Susan’s has been highlighted in Fodor’s, Frommer’s and Zagat, and was featured on Rachael Ray’s Food Network show $40 a Day.
Located in the heart of the historic district, Boarding House has served the Nantucket fine dining scene for 21 years. Focused on simple, elegant preparations of natural ingredients from island farms and local fisherman, Angela and Seth Raynor offer seasonal menus featuring farm-to-table renditions of comfort country food. Whether seated in the intimate cellar dining room or enjoying the lovely patio, diners respond enthusiastically to dishes like Crispy Pork Belly with creamy potato salad, Bone-in Berkshire Pork Chop with Brussels sprout hash, or Southern Eggs Benedict with pork belly and apple chutney. Boarding House has been featured in Zagat, Frommer’s, and Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” write-ups, and the wine list has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 15 times. http://www.boardinghousenantucket.com/
The Pearl offers modern coastal cuisine inspired by Asian flavors and Angela and Seth Raynors’ off-season world travels. Executive Chef Seth and Chef de Cuisine Liam Mackey craft extensive nightly menus highlighting the best seasonal ingredients the island has to offer, as well as fresh seafood flown in from Japan and Hawaii for an exotic dining experience in the heart of Nantucket. From the beautiful chef’s garden to the clean, minimalist de´cor of the main dining room, The Pearl offers diners an amazing setting to enjoy dishes like Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps with crispy pork and shrimp, the Sizzling Ssam Plate featuring Berkshire pork belly on a hot rock, and Pork and Tomato Thai Ragu. A must-taste island favorite, The Pearl is also a critical darling. New England Travel & Life named it The Best Seafood Restaurant in New England, it was showcased in Travel & Leisure Magazine and Boston Magazine, and it was one of the highest rated restaurants in Zagat in 2013. http://www.thepearlnantucket.com/